All ages attend and learn about recycling and sustainability ◆ By Mike Hiles
The sun was shining, a breeze was blowing and birds were singing as more than 400 visitors came together at The Oaks Retreat football field on the Soboba Reservation to celebrate the 13th annual Soboba Tribal Earth Day. The Soboba Tribal Environmental Department, which was established in 2003, hosts the event each year. Its Environmental Manager, Steven T. Estrada, said about 20 vendors were invited to set up booths to interact with everyone who attended during the four-hour event on April 18.
“We asked each of them to bring an activity since we get so many families coming with their children,” Estrada said. “We also requested they bring information to raise general environment awareness.”
His department stays focused on water quality and solid waste at the Soboba Reservation, which encompasses nearly 7,000 acres, 400 of which is devoted to residential use.
“We like to use opportunities like this to remind tribal members of how they can contribute to sustainability,” Estrada said. “Environmental concerns are not confined to just one community – it affects us all, especially air quality issues.”
Representatives from the Pechanga Environmental Department had handouts on improving a home’s indoor air quality if a problem is detected. They also had a demonstration of how the lungs work by using two tiny balloons and straws to inflate and deflate them.
Soboba Tribal TANF Program Specialist Olga Gomez worked with others from her department to help people make instant flower garden starters.
“We took a huge trash bag full of shredded paper from our office and got it wet to turn it into a pulp,” she explained. Using cookie cutters in different shapes, such as stars, hearts and trees a small amount of the pulp was put inside the cutter and a few seeds were added and pushed into the pulp. The cutters were removed and the shaped pulp was put onto a napkin atop a small paper plate. Once dry, the entire shape can be planted in the ground so flowers can grow.
“It’s all recyclable, even the paper plates and napkins,” Gomez said.
Cody Tabor, with the Soboba Department of Public Safety, offered coloring pages for kids and healthy snacks and waters for everyone.
“We all need to think about the environment – everything you do has an impact,” he said.
Jessica Southard and Brandon Gutierrez from the Morongo Environmental Protection Department drew young ones to their booth with a copy of “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss on their table and pencils that resembled the famed Truffula tree from the story.
“The book is about resource conservation and the effects of deforestation and it helps us try to explain those concepts to kids,” Southard said. “It’s nice to see them grasp concepts like climate change. This is where it starts – young children need to think about making changes now.”
The Soboba Tribal Preschool set up two crafts: “Earth Slime” and peanut butter and birdseed bird feeders. They also presented a Recyclable Earth Day Fashion Show. Students were asked to make an outfit at home they could model during the event.
“We asked them to design a fashion created out of recyclables such as plastic bags, plastic water bottles, cardboard tubes and boxes and things like that,” Director Dianne King said. “This was also an Earth Science STEAM Challenge for our kindergartners.”
With tutus of folded newspaper and “lace” made from cut strips of plastic bags, most of the girls went for an elegant, princess look. Some boys used cardboard boxes to make dinosaur bodies or covered them with foil to become a futuristic robot.
Karen Meade helped her four-year-old son Anastacio Basquez become “Earth Boy” with a rounded paper and cardboard costume painted green and blue that fit over his head.
“It started out as a vest but then we just kept going and came up with this,” said Meade. “Ever since I was little, I had to come up with my own stuff using what was lying around. We didn’t have a Michael’s (craft store) to go to; we had to be creative.”
Kerri King and Elena Garcia explained how the Sierra Club is the oldest and largest environmental group in the nation having been founded in 1892.
“The group doesn’t just help protect the planet but offers opportunities for people to enjoy it by offering hiking outings that are open to the public,” said King, of Anza. “Each chapter organizes hikes that anyone can sign up for with trained hike leaders and we abide by the ‘Leave No Trace’ rules.”
Jana Desrocher is a San Bernardino National Forest volunteer and was happy to teach about “Leave No Trace” and offered tip cards for kids and adults to help them understand expectations when they are visiting National Parks and Forests. She also shared the fact this year marks Smokey Bear’s 75th year of preventing wildfires.
Desrocher, of Hemet, became a volunteer eight years ago after she was hiking and saw a posted opportunity to give back to nature
“I love being outdoors,” she said. “And I really like kids and showing them the respect they need to have for nature.”
For more information, please visit www.LNT.org.